Recent news about trailers provided
by the federal government to those displaced by hurricanes
along the gulf coast has heightened the public's awareness
about formaldehyde. Headlines pronounced that formaldehyde
inside these trailers was making their occupants sick.
This naturally occurring chemical can, in fact, trigger
a range of health-related symptoms. However, formaldehyde
exposure should not incite panic; it's important to
understand symptoms, recognize potential sources,
and learn how to minimize exposure.
as a probable human carcinogen by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency, formaldehyde is a
relatively simple aldehyde found commonly indoors
and outdoors. The routes of exposure to formaldehyde
include ingestion, dermal absorption, and inhalation.
However, inhalation or respiratory exposure is what
triggers the most common health-related symptoms.
Formaldehyde exposure can produce many short-term
reactions including, eye, nose, throat and skin irritation
and, in some cases, trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.
While the short-term health effects of formaldehyde
exposure are well known, potential long-term (chronic)
effects remain controversial. Some studies indicate
that long-term formaldehyde exposure can lead to cancer
of the nose and throat.
widely use formaldehyde as part of the production
of common household products and building materials.
It is most commonly found in pressed wood, such as
plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard,
as well as finished furniture, textiles, fabrics,
paints, coatings and adhesives. However, formaldehyde
also is a naturally occurring chemical emitted at
low levels from trees and other living organisms,
studies show that irritation may occur at low levels,
government agencies and standards setting organizations
have established recommended levels. The World Health
organization recommends a level of 100 μg/m3
(0.12 ppm) or less for the indoor air. The State of
California has calculated an acute reference level
of 76 ppb (0.076 ppm) for one-hour exposures and an
interim 8-hour recommended level of 27 ppb (0.027
ppm) for a longer term, 8-hour exposures. In the case
of the FEMA trailers, studies indicate that the average
formaldehyde level was 77 ppb (0.077 ppm), with highs
reaching 590 ppb (0.59 ppm). Trailers containing this
high-level concentration create the greatest risk
to human exposure and health.
of the best methods for limiting exposure to formaldehyde
is to select low-emitting products. But sometimes
finding products that have literally no formaldehyde
can be a challenge. For one, almost all organic products
have some formaldehyde. Plus, products labeled as
"formaldehyde free" can still contain the
chemical, because manufacturers are permitted to make
this claim as long as they do not knowingly add formaldehyde.
To further complicate the issue, products that have
little or no formaldehyde often emit other potentially
recently, green building programs such as the United
States Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED®
program are requiring that products meet the State
of California Department of Health Services or GREENGUARD
Environmental Institute's (GEI) emissions guidelines,
which require that recently manufactured products
contribute no more than 13.5 ppb - 50 ppb of formaldehyde
into the indoor air. Since formaldehyde emissions
from products off gas with time, these levels should
decrease with time. Products that carry third-party
certification, like GREENGUARD Certification, help
verify that formaldehyde emissions levels are low.
Be concerned about excessive formaldehyde exposure?
Yes. But one should also know that traces of formaldehyde
surround us. The public's focus should be managing
often serves as a resource for publications and media
outlets, providing information on various topics that
relate to product emissions and indoor air quality.
The following represent recent articles/features.
How Children are Our Sustainable Future
Compliance Bulletin (January 2008)
Green Product Use Offers Market Advantage, Safety
Reproduced with permission from BNA's Environmental
Compliance Bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Jan. 28, 2008),
p. 32. Copyright 2008 by The Bureau of National Affairs,
Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com
Quarterly (Winter 2008)
Moving Furniture Towards Green
read these and past articles, visit the Press Room/Articles
under the "About GEI" tab of our website.
the next few months, GREENGUARD will be participating
in several events. For more information, please visit
tab listed under About GEI.
Webinar (sponsored by GRAINGER)
Online Webinar/February 27th, 2008, 12:00pm and
Westin Peachtree Plaza - Atlanta, GA/March 13th &
Window Coverings Expo (GEI exhibiting)
Georgia World Congress Center - Atlanta, GA/March
26th - 29th, 2008
Webinar (sponsored by IFMA)
Online Webinar/April 15th, 2008, 2:00pm EST
a snapshot of GEI's 2008 events, click on 2008
Calendar under the About GEI/Events tab. We
will continue to update this information, and appreciate
any feedback from you.
2008 GREENGUARD Environmental Institute |